Teen Motivation

“Do your homework.” “Clean your room.” “Get a job.” “Go out for a sport.” “Get some exercise.”

Many parents feel that all they ever do is nag, lecture, ground, and yell at their teens without ever receiving any results. Whether you want them to do homework, chores, or follow household rules, motivating a teen can be a challenge. Many teens fail to be self motivated for a number of reasons. However, there are several things a parent can do to effectively gain cooperation.

When a teen struggles in school or becomes resistant to parental instruction, it is important to consider the source of the problem. While a certain degree of noncompliance may be expected from a teenager, some may have underlying issues that exacerbate this problem. Sometimes the issue may be with the teen. Low self-esteem and depression can cause a teen to be unmotivated. In this case, you may want to seek professional help for solutions.

In addition, many teens lose motivation because their parents have enabled them to do so. Adults need to hold teens accountable for their actions. Allowing them to make some of their own decisions and experience failure is part of the process of growing up. Responsibility and motivation go hand in hand. If a teen is constantly under the “control” of their parent, they may not be learning to take care of things on their own. They need to be allowed to make decisions and experience the consequences accordingly.

Often, teens are unmotivated because they simply do not care about the task at hand. Although you would like to see your teen complete their chores, your teen might not be as worried about the garbage being taken out. People in general are motivated by self interests. With teens this is especially true. Motivate teens by rewarding positive behavior with privileges and other incentives. The days of hand outs are over. Give your teen the opportunity to get what they want by earning it. Whether your teen desires to borrow the car, have extra money for school clothes, or get a new cell phone, motivating them by their self interests will help you gain their cooperation and teach them responsibility for their own actions.

So how do you get your teen motivated? Here are some suggestions.

First you need to understand that some teenagers are naturally more motivated than others. And different moods can help or kill their motivation. Be understanding of both their personality and their moods, and know that some teenagers just choose their own timetable of when they want to be motivated in certain things. That’s not to say that these tips will not help, they should, but do not expect your teenager to be motivated in all things at all times.

So why does your teenager sometimes feel unmotivated? Here are few reasons:

  • Your teenager has a low self-esteem and sets low expectations.
  • Your teenager’s peers have no ambitions.
  • Your teenager wants easy and quick answers.
  • Your teenager cannot see their own potential.
  • Your teenager does not care or is worried about other problems.
  • Your teenager does not respect authority.
  • The environment is not conducive to motivation.

So how do you change the above? Understand that there are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation or doing something for fun and enjoyment, and extrinsic motivation or doing something that brings a reward. Intrinsic motivation is a more true and long-lasting form of motivation while extrinsic motivation usually dies after the reward is procured. So how do you teach your teenager intrinsic motivation? Here are a few things you can teach your teenager:

  • Finishing. Teach them to avoid quitting as it can be a habit.
  • Learning. Help them learn how to self-educate. Give them the tools to do this such as computers, books, and ability to travel when needed.
  • Socialization. If they hang around motivated teenagers, they should automatically pick up motivating habits.
  • Goal setting. Teach them to set small goals to achieve larger goals.
  • Talents and skills. Get them interested in things they are good at.
  • Risk-taking. Show them that it is important to take risks every now and again to get to where we want. Explain what risks you had to take to get where you are now.

Sometimes motivation depends on what your teenager is willing to give up. Distractions such as television and the internet can hamper your teenager’s motivation. Do not make it a punishment by just taking away the television and internet, but encourage your teenager to get involved in outside events such as sports, a job, or other school clubs and activities to show them that time does not need to be always spent in front of a screen. Hopefully these tips and ideas can get your teenager the motivation to become ambitious to do their homework, get a job, have fun, and learn constantly.

Teen Motivation Sources

  1. BLINK, D.S. Grant, “Motivation for Teens,” [online].
  2. Lawrence Kutner, “Insights for Parents: Motivating a Teenager,” [online].
  3. Motivation Tools, Bob Webb, “Seven Rules of Motivation,” [pdf online]